The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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August 23, 2011

Newberry gets honor that was long time coming

Steve Newberry is a jokester, specializing in the lost art of self-deprecating humor.

The former West Virginia cornerback likes to joke that his “southern twang” was the butt of many jokes during his career at WVU back in the 1980s.

“They thought I was from a foreign country,” Newberry said.

He likes to play up the “good old boy from the backwoods” character, but his self-deprecation hides what is a cold, hard fact. The guy was a player.

Not that he will tell you that.

You only need to dig a little while to learn the facts.

The fact that he holds the record for career interceptions at WVU with 20.

The fact that he worked his way into the lineup at West Virginia by the fifth game of his freshman season, and stayed there until the final game of his college career.

The fact that he managed to get a free-agent contract with the Dallas Cowboys, though the career in the NFL never materialized.

That’s the facts, Jack.

This truth will not be hidden, though: Newberry will be inducted into the West Virginia University Athletic Hall of Fame Oct. 8 during the Mountaineers’ game against Connecticut.

And I say it’s about time. I wonder what took so long.

Newberry remained typical to his self-deprecating style about the induction.

“I’ve told people, and I mean this,” Newberry said. “I never saw my career as Hall of Fame-worthy.”

Really?

“Look, when I broke into the starting lineup, I played what we called the wide corner, and back then we would flip-flop and I was always going to the side of the strength. Well, we had another guy who played strong-side linebacker when I was there who was pretty good. Darryl Talley.”

Yes, Talley was pretty good. Great, even. The guy is having his own day this year in Morgantown, after all. He’ll probably get a key to the city.

Talley had a way of making a defense look good and an offense look bad.

But Newberry was plenty good himself.

He did sign that free-agent contract with the Cowboys.

“I was in camp; I got paid a little bit, not much,” he said.

Still, Dallas had a man in Morgantown the day of the draft — it was a one-day affair then, without all the television coverage we see today — and he stayed with Newberry. Even took the Mountaineer and his new bride, Lynn, to dinner.

“He said they were ready to offer me a free-agent contract if they didn’t draft me, and I didn’t get drafted,” Newberry said. “He was at my house all day. I even got some other calls, and that was a little awkward. The Chiefs called. The Browns called. The Seahawks called. But, I mean, back then, that was THE Dallas Cowboys.”

When he got to rookie camp a couple weeks later, he arrived with 22 other free agent defensive backs. Well, you do the math.

He saw a lot in his career.

He helped the Mountaineers beat Oklahoma in Norman in the 1982 season-opener, 41-27.

That was a high.

There were lows.

In 1983, he arrived in Miami with the team and saw another side of life.

For a guy from Peterstown, Monroe County, West Virginia, driving to the Orange Bowl in Miami to face the Hurricanes — just before the school exploded onto the scene as the now infamous ‘The U.’ — was eye-opening.

“We go under an underpass and there are all these cardboard boxes, with people living in them,” Newberry said Sunday night. “I’d never seen anything like that.”

Indeed, it was a different world for the West Virginia cornerback who hailed from the farmland of Monroe County.

He would return to the farmland from Morgantown, a world away from his own football career, but he now gives back as an assistant football coach at his sort-of alma mater, James Monroe (Peterstown and Union, via consolidation).

And he owns a successful car dealership in the area.

Maybe he can hang a Hall of Fame plaque in the dealership.

Something tells me that isn’t going to happen.

— E-mail: demorrison@

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